While I currently call Chicago home, I spent formative adult years living in Vermont. I miss it. I miss the greenness. I miss the smell of the woods after the rain. I miss the impossibly fluffy snow on trees. I miss all the bucolic beauty, but most of all, I miss my brother. He’s the youngest of my brothers from another mother, which becomes obvious when you look at us side-by-side. I’m a pudgy Black woman, and he’s a six-foot-tall white guy. We might not look alike, but he’s my twin in so many wheys, including—but not limited to—our love of cheese puns.
I had plans to visit during the last week of December 2021, but Omicron was raging, and I decided it would be safer to stay home. I can’t lie: I cried for a couple of days. You see, we had plans. Important plans. Plans that did not involve leaving the house. We had plans for seven courses of delicious Hobbit-inspired foods.
Every year around the Christmas holiday season we watch the extended editions of the Lord of The Rings films. Every year we make plans to eat like a Hobbit. Every year we realize there’s not enough elastic in our pants to have breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. We fully intended to accomplish these goals in 2021. Jasper Hill Farm had a collection called…wait for it…THE DIVERSION! Maybe they were thinking of LOTR when they came up with that name, and maybe they weren’t. It doesn’t matter; my brother and I had decided to add their diversion to our diversion. We were going to eat casseroles (lasagna and mac and cheese at the top of the list), and we were going to eat cheese. For a brief moment in time, we were going to be transported from reality and take comfort in the familiar.
“You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkein
We were ready to be carried away. I was going to order as many bark- wrapped cheeses as I could find, and we were going to do tastings. Bark- wrapped cheeses seem very appropriate for the Shirefolk to bring with them on a long journey, and we had a full week to devour them all. Quinta from Point Reyes, Harbison from Jasper Hill, Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands, and Merry Goat Round Spruce Reserve from FireFly Farms were at the top of the list. I posted in a cheese group on Facebook asking for suggestions. Cheeses I’d never heard of, along with old favorites, were mentioned. I was so excited.
The Omicron outbreak meant that, instead, my brother and I watched the movies together, but from our respective homes. I ate the cheeses that I’d planned on bringing to Vermont. He ate the ones from Jasper Hill. It was fine, but it wasn’t what we wanted or needed. After the years of pandemic fear; racial injustice protests; televised Black trauma; and police harassment and intimidation, I just wanted my brother. I wanted that in-person connection. I wanted to time it just right, so the sun has already set in Vermont when the battle at Helms’ Deep starts and when the beacons of Minas Tirith are lit. I wanted to make fun of him when he misses a word in a monologue and then act irrationally angry when he points out my own mistakes. I needed to be silly and spend a week in pajamas and other “soft clothes” while gorging on cheese and freshly baked bread. I needed peace.
Often when we think of entertaining, we imagine large groups of friends or family, or maybe catering and grazing boards. For me, this year, I’m going to (hopefully) spend an entertaining and delicious week with my brother. We’re going to eat like Hobbits—which will include enjoying some amazing bark-wrapped cheeses—and get carried away.